Rumble in the jungle: updating Kipling’s troubling children’s classic

Katherine Rundell was thrilled by the idea of plunging back into the world of Mowgli, Bagheera and Mother Wolf ... but could her prequel update The Jungle Book without killing the magic?

There are a few books for children that operate as a type of personality test. One is The Wind in the Willows: every person is a Ratty, a Mole, a Toad or a Badger. Another is Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book: in each of us is a constellation of Baloo, Bagheera, Mother Wolf, Kaa and Shere Khan: the book is a kind of Myers Briggs personality test for the childhood soul.

Many, perhaps most, people first come to The Jungle Book through the 1967 Disney animation. There’s a great deal to admire about the film, but it’s a very different beast; Walt Disney famously gave one of his screenwriters a copy of the book, saying: “The first ...